Customs and Courtesies

Customs and Courtesies
Joshua High School
Naval Junior ROTC
LtCol J.G. Davidson
A custom is an
established practice.
Customs include positive
actions—things you do,
and taboos—things you
 Many customs
procedures required
by military courtesy,
while others add to
the graciousness of
garrison life. The
breach of some
customs merely
brands the offender
as ignorant,
careless, or ill bred.
Violations of
other customs,
however, can
bring official
censure or
action. The
customs of the
military are its
common law.
Never criticize a leader
in public.
Never go "over the
heads" of superiors—
don't jump the chain of
Never proffer excuses.
Try not to lead through
Never "wear" a superior's
rank by saying
something like, "the
Colonel wants this done
now," when in fact the
Colonel said no such
thing. Speak with your
own voice.
Never run indoors
or pretend you
don't hear (while
driving, for
example) to avoid
standing reveille
or retreat.
If you don't
know the
answer to a
question, you
will never go
wrong with the
response, "I
don't know sir,
but I'll find out."
Courtesy among members of the Armed
Forces is vital to maintain discipline. The
distinction between civilian and military
courtesy is that military courtesy was
developed in a military atmosphere and
has become an integral part of serving in
 The salute is not simply
an honor exchanged. It is
a privileged gesture of
respect and trust among
soldiers. Remember the
salute is not only
prescribed by regulation
but is also recognition of
each other’s
commitment, abilities,
and professionalism.
History of the Salute
Some historians believe the hand salute began in late
Roman times when assassinations were common. A
citizen who wanted to see a public official had to
approach with his right hand raised to show that he did
not hold a weapon. Knights in armor raised visors with
the right hand when meeting a comrade. This practice
gradually became a way of showing respect and, in early
American history, sometimes involved removing the hat.
By 1820, the motion was modified to touching the hat,
and since then it has become the hand salute used
today. You salute to show respect toward an officer, flag,
or our country.
 The salute is widely misunderstood outside the
military. Some consider it to be a gesture of servility
since the junior extends a salute to the senior, but it is
quite the opposite. It is an expression that recognizes
another member of the profession of arms. The fact
that the junior extends the greeting first is merely a
point of etiquette—a salute extended or returned
makes the same statement.
 Salute Scenario
LT Thompson and his newest NCO, SGT Jemison,
were walking toward the orderly room one morning.
As they turned the corner and approached the
building, PFC Robertson walked out carrying a large
box. PFC Robertson said, "Good morning, sir," and
kept walking past the two. As his hands were
occupied, he didn’t salute.
LT Thompson saluted and replied with the Marine
motto, “Semper Fi!"
After the PFC had passed, SGT Jemison asked the
lieutenant why he saluted since the PFC did not.
"He did by rendering the greeting of the day. If I had
been carrying something and he wasn’t, he would
have saluted. It’s a privilege, not a chore," said LT
Thompson. "It’s just as important for me to return a
salute as for a Marine to render it."
The way you
salute says a lot
about you. A
proud, smart
salute shows
pride in yourself
and your unit and
that you are
confident in your
A sloppy salute might mean that you’re
ashamed of your unit, lack confidence,
or at the very least, that you haven’t
learned how to salute correctly.
 In saluting, turn your head and eyes toward the
person or flag you are saluting. Bring your hand
up to the correct position in one, smart motion
without any preparatory movement. When
dropping the salute, bring your hand directly down
to its natural position at your side, without
slapping your leg or moving your hand out to the
side. Any flourish in the salute is improper.
 The proper way to salute is to raise your right
hand until the tip of your forefinger touches the
outer headgear slightly above and to the right of
your right eye. Your fingers are together, straight,
and your thumb snug along the hand in line with
the fingers. Your hand, wrist, and forearm are
straight, forming a straight line from your elbow to
your fingertips. Your upper arm (elbow to
shoulder) is horizontal to the ground.
All service
members in
uniform are
required to salute
when they meet
and recognize
persons entitled
(by grade) to a
salute except
when it is
inappropriate or
A salute is also rendered:
 When the United States National Anthem or foreign
national anthems are played.
 To uncased National Color outdoors.
 On ceremonial occasions such as changes of
command or funerals.
 At reveille and retreat ceremonies, during the raising
or lowering of the flag.
 During the sounding of honors.
 When pledging allegiance to the US flag outdoors.
 When turning over control of formations.
 When rendering reports.
 To officers of friendly foreign countries.
Salutes are not required when:
Indoors, unless under arms and reporting
to an officer or when on duty as a guard.
A prisoner or escorting prisoners.
Saluting is obviously inappropriate.
However, in any case not covered by
specific instructions, render the salute.
When overtaking an
officer who is senior to
you, tradition dictates
that you must render a
hand salute and say
or MA'AM" depending
on the situation. The
officer who is senior will
return your salute and
say "CARRY-ON ". You
may then drop your
salute and proceed.
Saluting Scenarios
• More than two people
present and of different
officer ranks.
• The general rule that
applies is that you
always salute the senior
officer no matter how
many other officers are
Military courtesy shows respect and
reflects self-discipline. Consistent and
proper military courtesy is an indicator of
unit discipline, as well. Soldiers
demonstrate courtesy in the way we
address officers or NCOs of superior rank.
 Some other simple but visible signs of
respect and self-discipline are as follows:
 When talking to an officer of superior rank, stand at
parade rest until ordered otherwise.
 When you are dismissed, or when the officer
departs, come to attention and salute.
 When an officer of superior rank enters a room, the
first soldier to recognize the officer calls personnel
in the room to attention but does not salute. Walk on
the left of an officer or NCO of superior rank.
 When walking and approached by an a senior
service member, you give an appropriate greeting by
saying, "Good morning, Sergeant," for example.
Simple courtesy is an important
indicator of a person’s bearing,
discipline, and manners. It is a fact
that most people respond
positively to genuine politeness
and courtesy. Walk down a street
in most towns and cities and see
the response you get from people
when you just say "good morning."
 The flag of the United
States is the symbol of
our nation. The union,
white stars on a field of
blue, is the honor point
of the flag. The union of
the flag and the flag
itself, when in company
with other flags, are
always given the honor
position, which is on
the right.
Some of the rules for displaying
the flag are as follows:
Installations will display the flag daily from reveille
to retreat.
When a number of flags are displayed from staffs set
in a line, the flag of the United States will be at the
right; to the left of an observer facing the display. If
no foreign national flags are present, the flag of the
United States may be placed at the center of the line
providing it is displayed at a higher level.
When the flag of the United States is displayed with
state flags, all of the state flags will be of comparable
When you are passing or being passed by
colors that are being presented, paraded, or
displayed, salute when the colors are six paces
from you. Hold the salute until the colors are
six paces beyond you.
 When in civilian clothing, the only change is to place your
right hand over your heart instead of saluting. Vehicles in
motion should stop. If you are in a car or on a motorcycle,
dismount and salute. If you are with a group in a military
vehicle or bus, remain in the vehicle. The individual in
charge will dismount and salute.
 The National and
organizational flags carried
by Color-bearing units are
called the National Color and
the organizational color
respectively (the word color
is capitalized when referring
to the National flag only).
When used singularly, the
term "Color" implies the
National Color. The term
"Colors" means the national
and organizational colors.
The Colors originated as a means of battlefield
identification and performed this function for many
years. The old rank of Ensign—originally an Army
title, now used only in the Navy—was assigned to
the regiment's junior officer who carried the flag
(ensign) into battle. Because the color party
marched into battle at the front and center of the
regiment, casualties were high. Victories in the old
days were sometimes expressed in terms of the
number of enemy colors captured. The practice of
carrying colors into battle persisted through the
American Civil War; the last Medals of Honor
awarded during this conflict were for capturing
Confederate colors. Modern armies now carry colors
only in ceremonies.
LtCol Davidson Pet Peeves
 Pass without greeting
 Forgetting the magic
 Competing for space
 Lack of deference
 Passive – Aggressive
 Eye Rolls / Hand
 Last Word
 Side-bar conversations
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